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Entertainment & Lifestyle

Weathervane stages ‘Enchanted April'

4/24/2008 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Director, cast can’t rescue ‘bad script’

Harriet DeVeto (Constanza), left, and Carol Belfance (Mrs. Graves) share a scene in Weathervane Community Playhouse’s production of “Enchanted April.”
Photo courtesy of Weathervane Community Playhouse
MERRIMAN VALLEY — “Enchanted April” should seem familiar to Akron area residents. This so-called “romantic comedy,” which is on stage through May 4 at Weathervane Community Playhouse, focuses on four women who desperately want to get out of the clouds, the rain and the cold. Does this sound familiar?

Set in London in 1922, “Enchanted April” is about four women who don’t really know each other, who rent an Italian villa for the month of April to escape rainy, cold London. Two of these women want a furlough from their husbands. The other two women are widows.

In addition, both grumpy husbands seem to be under the spell of the bad weather. The first act plods along with the promise of something wonderful happening in Italy.

In the second act, the women arrive in sunny Mezzago, Italy, where the waves crash on the beach, just out of the sight of the audience. The sun is shinning, the flowers are in bloom and life for the four women may get a notch better. The women find the restorative powers of the sun, warmth and a break from their husbands — all they need to make them charming, affectionate women. A program note suggests they change because of the power of friendship. I missed the friendship part.

The script is based on Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1922 novel “The Enchanted April.” According to a program note, this novel led to several stage and screen versions. This stage version (by Matthew Barber) would work better as a screenplay. The fast cuts in the first act seem more like a screenplay than a stage script.

This spring-break piece makes me think the cast should have been sent to some resort with hundreds of screaming college students. This is a project that should be charged to the play-selection committee. Why waste talent and time attempting to bring this script to the stage? Unfortunately, a director and cast can’t rescue this script. It just doesn’t work. It’s a bad script.

The cast and director Bob Belfance deserve better.

The audience deserves better.

Alan Scott Ferrall (scenic design/technical director) created a second-act set that received a round of applause when the curtains opened revealing green grass, flowers, stone steps and walkways. This is an excellent set.

However, because this set is so good, why couldn’t the show have an equally good (but drab) set for the first act?

The program credits Judy Willemsen as the master gardener. I assume she planned the garden part of the second-act set and is responsible for making sure every plant is cared for. She has done an excellent job.

When acting awards are handed out, watch for Harriet DeVeto, who plays Constanza, the Italian cook and housekeeper. I only heard her speak one word in English. However, she communicates every little meaning with her vocal inflections, her gestures, posture and a face that can communicate to the back row. She deserves every laugh she gets.

In summary, “Enchanted April” moves slowly through the spring break of four women, who desperately need renewal in their lives. Unfortunately, a good second-act set and a winning performance by DeVeto can’t rescue this show.

For ticket information, call (330) 836-2626.

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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